Riding Shotgun: Define “Young”

Huh? Whaddyamean 30 isn’t “young?” I’ll show you bastards what’s “young” …

Do you remember the bills you have to pay

Or even yesterday

— David Bowie, “Young Americans

Young Americans are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds,” read the New York Times headline the other Wednesday. And I couldn’t be more surprised and/or dismayed. Oh, not about the leftward politics of our nation’s youth. That headline should be about as surprising as “Geriatrics Listening to Less Acid-Rock” or “Meth Use Low Among Toddlers.” No, my dismay came from what the article considered a “Young American”: a person between 17 and 29 years of age.

I barely, just barely, skated under the bar. Apparently, when I turn 30 this November, I will no longer be young. It’s true. The mainstream media says so and they never lie. I still feel young. I own no real estate; still listen to new music; shop in the young adult section for clothes; and have absolutely no long-term financial plan. That makes me “young,” right? Apparently not. I am married. That’s pretty mature. And I have a career, and I’m going to grad school. Those are pretty mature, too.

So, come November, if I’m no longer going to be “young,” then what will I be? I’m not going to be “old.” That’s just retarded. (See, I call things retarded; isn’t that “young”?) So — not young, not old. Sweet Christmas, does that mean I’m going to be middle-aged? That’s not possible, is it? Middle-aged doesn’t start at 30! Fuck you, it does not. There are people in their mid-40s saying they’re not middle-aged yet. Middle-aged means in the middle, and if I’m middle-aged at 30, that means I’m dying at 60, and that is unfuckingacceptable. Unless the medical examiner rules my cause of death “eaten by dinosaur.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll accept dying at any time if I’m eaten by a dinosaur.

So, if 30 isn’t middle-aged, and 30 isn’t old, and (thank you, NY Times editorial staff, you whores of journalistic integrity) 30 isn’t young. What is it? Post-young? Pre-middle? Semi-maturish? They’ve been saying (and when I say “they,” it’s probably the same fuckers at the NY Times) that young adults today are suffering from — or basking in, depending on your point of view — an extended adolescence. Am I an Extended Adolescent? That, much like dying at 60 other than via dinosaur, is unacceptable. Nobody wants to be called an adolescent. Even actual adolescents find it demeaning.

So maybe it’s not just about age. People have been saying for as long as there have been birthday cards tell you you’re only as old as you feel. Maybe there’s something to that homily crapolla. Mind you, that could prove complicated. Someone might feel downright venerable at 18 or like a pre-teen tart at 87. Who knows? Age doesn’t have to matter at all. I feel pretty young. Not super-duper, comfortable-shopping-at-Old-Navy-no-matter-how-much-I-like-earthtones young. But pretty young. The editor of this page is younger than me in years, but he’s just had his second kid and I imagine from the exhaustion alone, he’s feeling a mite seasoned.

So, for me I think, 30 will still be “young.” Maybe even 40. Maybe I’ll accept middle-aged somewhere in my 50s. I dunno. I’m not committing to anything. Now, this might make things difficult, if not totally impossible for pollsters to gauge what “Young Americans” are thinking/doing/drinking/snorting, but people conducting a New York Times/CBS News/MTV Poll should not have their lives made any easier. And if they want to know what young Americans are thinking they can just ask me. Even after this November.

Article © 2007 by Steve Spotswood